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Alan Hunter on 20 years of MTV

Alan Hunter
Alan Hunter  

(CNN) -- Alan Hunter was one of MTV's five original VJs, along with Martha Quinn, J.J. Jackson, Mark Goodman and Nina Blackwood. He talked with CNN's Colleen McEdwards about the early days of the network. MTV celebrated its 20th anniversary August 1.

Carol Lin, CNN Anchor: As you all know by now, MTV turned 20 yesterday. The network celebrated last night with a big bash in the Big Apple.

Colleen McEdwards, CNN Anchor: Big bash, indeed. And one of the people who was there, Alan Hunter, one of the original VJs at MTV. He is in New York. Have you slept at all?

Alan Hunter, former MTV VJ: Yes, this is like after the Academy Awards, I can't believe they put people on to ask them, you know, what was it like to get your Oscar. I haven't been to sleep yet, so. It's just fun, yes.

McEdwards: Well, do your best for us. How was it? You took your kids, I heard.

MTV: Rewinding 20 years of music revolution

Hunter: I did, so it was the total -- you know, it was the perfect night of contradiction. I mean, that's what MTV is all about, right? It's PC, politically correct, and socially conscious, and then it's foul-mouthed and inappropriate. And for me to bring my kids to the show last was just a hoot. It was great for other people, and myself included. And there I am, walking up on stage going, you know, where in the hell am I? It was so funny.

McEdwards: Who did you see?

Hunter: Well, you just mentioned a couple. I mean, obviously, there was Tony Bennett there. That was another contribution that MTV is all about. But Rob Halford, Tommy Lee, I mean, Billy Idol did a great set, some of the old people, Cindy Lauper, and then you had Busta Rhymes and Run-DMC all up on stage. So it was a lovefest. So many different kinds of people over the 20 years of MTV's existence were all sort of there in one crazy room, and even my kid at 15, who is a pretty smart kid, was going, wow, look at all the people, dad, there's a lot of love in this room. Maybe he was kidding.

McEdwards: Speaking of, you know, back to the days when do you first started out there. Tell us about your first audition.

Hunter: It was about like this. It really wasn't very good. You know, staring into a dispassionate camera that gives you feedback. It doesn't nod, it doesn't shake, or it doesn't say, hey, you're doing good. I really was bad, I had two bad auditions in a row, and then they gave me the job.

McEdwards: How did you get the job?

Hunter: I think it was payola. I think I paid somebody. Well, I don't know. I must have fit the demographic that they needed. Actually, my opinion is that they were coming down to the wire, MTV was about to launch in three weeks, and they didn't have a fifth deejay, and they said, just hire that guy, he can speak, albeit with a Shakespearean accent, because I was an actor.

McEdwards: How did you grow into it, though? I hear cartwheels on the set?

Hunter: Yes, I was breaking teleprompters right and left.

McEdwards: What did you do?

Hunter: You know, it took me six about months to really get the gig. I really didn't have a handle on what it meant to be myself in front of a camera, because as an actor, I didn't have a self, you know. But finally, I think it was breaking the teleprompter one day. I was doing some antic, because the producers were saying just, you know, just, you know, throw it out, throw it out the window, forget the script, just do something funny, and I did a cartwheel. The teleprompter went down. You break stuff and you don't read the script. That's the key. That was really kind of MTV's whole thing.

McEdwards: And what did producers say about that?

Hunter: They were giving me the big thumbs-up.

McEdwards: They liked it, right?

Hunter: Well, the funny think about the early days of MTV is just that no one knew what they were doing. Maybe it was like the early days of CNN. We're going live somewhere, what, what, there's TV cameras? And it made for a really great chaotic situation that I think really sets a good stage for MTV.

McEdwards: Did you think it would work? When you heard 24-hour music television back then, did you think it had a chance?

Hunter: Well, you know, I was in a David Bowie video about two months prior to getting the gig. I was just an actor getting 50 bucks a day being in Bowie video called "Fashion," and so, to me, videos at that point in time were nothing but a disappointment, because the act didn't show up live. It's like Paul McCartney and Wings tonight on "The Midnight Special," and they weren't there, here's my video instead. We had no clue. But about three months into it, we went to record store appearances in Idaho and Toledo, and 1,000 kids would show up to get the VJs' autographs and we thought, this might do it.

McEdwards: How about you? The last 20 years, what have you been up to?

Hunter: Well, I went to the orthopedic shop the other day and got my walker and my cane.

McEdwards: You're not there yet.

Hunter: Hey, I eat my Wheaties. You get older, and you get a little healthier actually, so I'm doing good. I had a great '80s, had a terrific '90s. I got two lovely kids, and now I have a production company doing. We're independent feature films. So MTV was sort of a departure for me. It took me away from being the headhunter producer, even though I don't smoke cigars.

It's called Hunter Films, by the way.

McEdwards: Get the plug in there.

Alan Hunter, you're a pro, thanks very much, appreciate it.

Hunter: Thank you.


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